During a trip to New York last year I visited the Sony Wonder Tech Lab.

The Wonder Lab is a four story interactive exhibition taking you though the history and a glimpse into the future of Sony. So a pretty wide story.

(The lab is probably how the National Media Museum in Bradford would be if sponsored by one organisation, and the organisation insisted all the museum could only display was that organisation’s stuff.)

The Lab itself, while fun (and like my beloved Media Museum, had some interactive tech that needed fixing), wasn’t the most enlightening part of my visit. The building’s street level was.

The street level is a big, airy, light space - driven by the building’s fascinating architecture - and has lots of tables, chairs, and food retailers around the edges. Any visitor to a shopping centre like (and I use examples local to me) the Light in Leeds or the Kitchen at Leeds Trinity may be imagining similar.

But there’s a difference in the contract between the visitor and the space at somewhere like the Light over here in Leeds and to this massive ‘foyer’ at Sony Tower: the space in New York is clearly marked as public space, on signs so it is explicit.

Simply: you are free as a member of the public to come and use these spaces on ‘private land’, to sit at those tables and chairs. There is no unwritten contract you have to oblige where you can only sit on those seats if you have bought something there. And there are many of spaces in New York, not just space in buildings, all indicated with clear signage.

Over the past year this idea of ‘public space’ has been at the back of my mind, more and more, as I’ve had to commute into Leeds and Bradford’s city centres for meetings.

The places we meet are like Trinity Kitchen. And as several of my colleagues have noted, they feel obliged to get something while they are there. We do not feel, right or not, that we could rock up to Trinity Kitchen with a packed lunch to munch on while we natter.

(In fairness to Trinity, there have some small ‘seating pods’ near the service lounge which could be the kind of space I am thinking of, albeit on a very micro scale.)

So, I want to start the hunt for these and all public spaces and record them - and make it an open data project.

The only conditions:

  • The spaces have to meet the idea of ‘public’. ie. anyone can use the space with no ‘contractual obligation’, written or unwritten, other than being ‘civil’.

  • The spaces are in Bradford and Leeds. ie. have a postcode for one of those cities and/or being within those cities’ municipal council boundaries).

I have set up a little form to take submissions, which you can access here. The form will feed the data into a spreadsheet here, which you can view any time.

I don’t expect this be an overnight thing, and something will take a little time to collate (one way or another) as I am doing this as an on-the-side voluntary/unpaid project. I would like to make sure the information that builds up is used, at the least place it on Leeds Data Mill - and open to any other suggestions!

Anything you want to ask, you can get in touch at this page. And feel free to discuss this in the comments below.

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